The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most intricate joints in your body. This joint acts like a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull, and if temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) occurs, it can cause stiffness and pain. In order to treat TMJ disorder, professional treatment from your dentist may recommend using an oral appliance such as a TMJ splint.
What are TMJ Splints?
A TMJ splint is known by many names such as dental splint, bite guard, bite splint or occlusal splint. The dentist will start by making an impression of your teeth, which they’ll use to form a custom-made acrylic splint. It is typically worn while you sleep at night on your upper or lower teeth like a mouthguard.
The splint is designed in a way where it minimizes the pressure on your jaw joints and teeth, and corrects the jaw alignment. It does this by supporting and stabilizing the joints and muscle to prevent malocclusion, or an incorrect position of teeth when they are closed. Depending on your treatment plan, the TMJ splint are relatively small, only covering a few of your front teeth.
What Are the Most Common TMD Symptoms?
The best way to identify a TMJ disorder is by understanding what the symptoms feel like. Some of the most common symptoms patients suffering from TMD are likely to experience the following symptoms:
- Facial pain or tenderness of muscles around the jaw (most common in the morning)
- Teeth grinding
- May notice clicking sounds while moving their jaws
- Lock jaw
- Jaw pain
- Earaches or ringing in the ears
- Pain spreading behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck or back
- Limited mouth motions
- Numbness or tingling feeling in the fingers
- Teeth sensitivity without any oral health problems.
The symptoms of TMD may look like other conditions or health problems. So it’s important to contact your local dentist who specializes in TMJ treatment to help you relieve your pain.
What are the different Types of Splints?
It is important to find the right splint for your condition. There are two types of splints that your dentist can recommend. Permissive and non-permissive. Each type of TMJ splint has distinct features for patients with unique needs.
Permissive splints, also known as stabilization splints, are a common type of TMJ splint treatment for TMD. With permissive splints, we can fit them to both the upper and lower teeth, which limits grinding and clenching as well as helps align jaw joints with sockets. When you close your jaw, your teeth will come in contact with your splint. During this process, your teeth will slide freely against the flat and smooth bite surface, eliminating any interference that could cause muscle inflammation.
A non-permissive splint, also known as repositioning splint or directive splint, repositions the jaw by limiting movement. This type of splint is used only for specific types of jaw disorders, correct bite occlusions, and guides your jaw into the proper position. Examples of non-permissive splints include anterior repositioning appliances (ARA) and mandibular orthotic repositioning oral appliances (MORA). Patients using this type of splint will typically wear this all day, every day.
What Can I expect from My TMJ Consultation?
At your appointment, we’ll thoroughly inspect the jaw to see if there are any signs of irritation or inflammation. To diagnose TMD, your dentist will examine the teeth for any signs of grinding or clenching, take a cone-beam computed tomography systems (CBCT) scan (think of a 3D panoramic x-ray), and look at how jaw muscles are moving to assess if there is a muscular imbalance or joint dysfunction.
An easy way to see if you have TMD is to check whether your jaw is shifting as you open and close your mouth, or if you have an uneven bite when your jaw is closed. We will also assess how it moves in all directions and discuss your symptoms with you to see which TMJ splint treatment is appropriate for your condition.
Do TMJ Splits Work?
Depending on the severity of the TMD, dental appliances do work as they are used to relieve facial, neck and shoulder pain by slightly repositioning your teeth and creating space between them. It does this by acting as a buffer and moves your TMJ into its natural position, where the joint isn’t fully engaged.
There are however some severe cases where TMJ splints are ineffective for TMJ treatment. For example, if you have severe tooth and jaw misalignment, resulting in atypical joint movements while biting or chewing your food. When that happens, your temporomandibular joint needs to overcompensate and move a lot more for each meal. In order to fix such cases, the best treatment option is orthodontic therapy as part of your TMD treatment.
What are the Benefits of a TMJ Splint?
Wearing a TMJ splint can improve jaw alignment, reduce tension on the facial muscles and provide some relief from discomfort by cushioning your teeth. You may have to get used to wearing it at first but eventually you will experience these benefits:
- Reduced pain in the joints and muscles as well as improved sleep quality due to less grinding and clenching while sleeping
- Have better airflow and be able to breathe more easily when your jaw is aligned
- Less headaches, earaches, and jaw tenderness as a result of less muscle tension and pressure
- With an even bite and jaw position, people can achieve a more attractive appearance
- Gently moves your jaw into a more comfortable position
How Much Does A Splint for TMJ Cost?
The cost will vary depending on the treatment. However forgoing TMJ treatment in hopes to save money will typically cost more in the long run if the conditions gets worse. Treating your TMJ sooner than later is an affordable and effective option for those who want to try and treat their condition before they experience severe pain, irreversible damage, or surgery. Depending on your health insurance, a dental appliance may even be covered under health benefits as well!
Looking for a dentist who can treat your TMD with a TMJ spLint?
At Sloan Creek Dental, Dr. Tina Feng is an experienced dentist in diagnosing and treating TMJ. To learn more about your TMJ treatment options, or learn more about TMD, schedule a dental appointment at our office, please contact our dental office at 972-468-1440, or leave us a message.